Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.
Leadership is traditionally conceived as the estate of a singularly capable individual, perched on a mountaintop. Such leaders uniquely own the vision of the organization and the permission to implement it. They act as both composer and conductor, attuned to performers’ contributions, correcting when they lose the note or rhythm. Solitude is the very aether in which they work. If they feel a twinge of loneliness, they would never permit themselves to show it. The entire hierarchy of the organization, it was thought, would crumble should the leader step down or be pushed aside.
While good leadership is, of course, critically important, we now know that there is more than one model of leadership. Leaders come with some “leadership” qualities, and they can be, and often need to be, coached and trained in others. Each school must find the right leader for its mission, community and time. The right leader for one school is not necessarily right for another school, and the same school might look for a different kind of leader even when the previous one was highly successful.
Most importantly, leadership is a collaborative enterprise. It is not a quality that resides within the head of school or the board president, but rather between them, in their capacity to work together amicably and productively. A great head of school who has a terrible relationship with the board chair will not succeed. According to a recent NAIS survey, “42% of heads and about 33% of boards report having experienced a strained head-board relationship in the past 10 years.” The chemistry between this critical leadership dyad sets the tone and empowers the magic for everything else that transpires in a school.
This issue of HaYidion trains its lens on the relational quality of leadership in Jewish day schools. It starts with that thorny lay- professional partnership. Cappell, Prizmah’s vice president of leadership development, maps out what we’ve learned about the school head-board chair relationship and the programs and services we offer to strengthen it. Brown discusses a covenant as a paradigm for removing the power imbalance in this relationship, and Maier shows what this covenant might look like. A dialogue between Nash & Schoenberg explores their head-board chair partnership, while Wasser offers guidance for the two to work together on head-succession planning.
The third string in the “threefold cord” of school leadership is the board, the focus of the second group of articles. Shapira, a Prizmah board member, presents the recipe for a board to function together effectively, like a winning sports team. An interview with de Toledo elevates the importance of speaking about the value, the prestige and honor, of board service. Levy insists upon committee structure and use of time as key ingredients for successful board functioning. Geva & Raviv recount their school’s thoughtful process of board-chair succession, and Paul describes the cultivation of alumni for the board of a small school.
The school spread showcases the extraordinary dedication of boards during the pandemic. Remaining articles describe relationships within and among schools. Halper proposes setting up the development team according to principles of project management. Waynik relates how an outside funder provided wisdom and resources for a consortium of small schools to ramp up collaborative initiatives. Farbman conveys how schools can work with their consultants to turn one-offs into lasting improvement. Bruder & Safran Novogroder examine ways to ensure alignment of vision throughout a school, and Nagy suggests adaptable leadership as critical for empowering stakeholders to thrive during change.
Please take note of the proliferation of advertising in this issue, thanks to the deft work of Jessie Katz, Prizmah’s sponsorships manager. Our advertisers are organizations that are invested in serving the field of Jewish day schools, through their expertise and creativity.
As we anticipate hopefully the end of the pandemic, I wish all of you a time of health and regrowth. May we know the joy of reconnecting in person, of relaxing from the threats and stresses, and of renewal of purpose during this season of Shavuot.